SWANTON - For the last 25 years, a quartet of volunteers has helped make the St. Richard Festival sing with fun, food, and family entertainment.
This year, as the four men of St. Richard Catholic Church mark their silver anniversary assisting with the popular festival, they're changing things up a bit. Actually, they're changing things a lot.
"We're going to have a big event in May this year," said Mark Chovanec as he outlined some of the changes on tap. This weekend, the church at 333 Brookside Dr. will celebrate a one-day Spring Fling.
Mr. Chovanec explained that the timing was switched from fall to spring because the church's festival is trying to attract more people. Traditionally, the St. Richard Festival was held on the third weekend in
September. For the last several years, the festival was the third large-crowd attraction held in a five-week period in the Swanton area - coming hard on the heels of the Swanton Corn Festival and the Fulton County Fair.
Organizers say this is the first time that a one-day festival will be held in May. The Spring Fling will get under way at 8 a.m. Saturday at the church and will end at midnight.
"It's a big undertaking for us," Mr. Chovanec said. Other volunteers who have been active with the festival for a quarter-century are Leo Hall, Larry Buckenmeyer, and Randy Hahn. The men have tackled festival tasks ranging from selling tickets to chairing the event.
An estimated 200 parishioners have stepped up to assist through the years, Mr. Chovanec said, noting that many "guys and gals" each year assist with the festival.
You can hear the excitement in Mr. Chovanec's voice when he talks about the festival, particularly when he says that the entertainment this year will feature the Van-Dells, a popular singing group with devoted fans from across the area.Two dozen years ago, festival organizers decided it was high time to get a big tent to provide shade and shelter for the guests. That was the same year that high winds hit the area, and the faithful volunteers spent much of their time holding tight to tent posts to make sure the tent didn't topple.
This year, the big tent will be bigger to accommodate seating for the 900 people expected to attend the Van-Dells show, which starts at 7 p.m. This also marks the first time that a "big name stage show" will headline the festival's attractions, Mr. Chovanec said.
Other activities in the lineup include a Pharaoh's Car Show (a portion of proceeds from the car show will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation); a pancake breakfast; games, and food. Organizers will continue the tradition of serving barbecued chicken prepared by Tom Sullivan, a resident of Swancreek Township.
A one-day festival will be held this fall on Sept. 16, and then the committee will decide to hold either a two-day spring festival or a two-day fall festival.
Van-Dells tickets and more festival information is available from the parish office.